Business Monday: Fewer patients had longer stays at Aspen Valley Hospital in ‘21 |

Business Monday: Fewer patients had longer stays at Aspen Valley Hospital in ‘21

Signs posted outside Aspen Valley Hospital thank the staff for their hardwork in April 2020 at the start of the pandemic. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Admissions at Aspen Valley Hospital were down in 2021, but the patients who checked in stayed longer.

In his year-end report to the hospital’s board of directors on Feb. 14, CEO David Ressler noted the effect of COVID-19 on the facility’s operations in 2021, its second year servicing patients under the pressures of the global pandemic.

“One of the dynamics that has caused increased length of stay has been COVID and the COVID patients having higher acuity and staying longer,” he said.

Patient volume in 2021 was down 3.4% from 2020 and 21.6% lower than 2019, yet patient stays were 20.1% longer than in 2020 and 33.6% longer than in 2019, according to Ressler’s presentation.

“In general … our overall acuity has been up pretty significantly along with that length of stay,” he said, “so the demands on nurses have been greater in the last year.”

Though patient volume at Aspen Valley Hospital decreased in 2021, overall business at the facility was on the rise.
Aspen Times file photo

Ressler also ticked off various other data used to judge the hospital’s performance.

— The average daily census was its lowest in 2021 during May, with about 4.5 patients, and at its highest in March, August and September, with approximately 9 patients. Overall, the 25-bed hospital’s average daily patient census last year bettered 2020 by 16.4% and 2019 by 4.7%.

“Again, that’s with the higher acuity,” Ressler said.

— Fewer babies were delivered at AVH in 2021 in contrast to 2020 and 2019, respectively down 17.5% and 4.9%. June was the hospital’s busiest month for deliveries last year, with approximately 20 to 21 newborns.

“It moves around for a lot for a bunch of variables,” Ressler said.

— Emergency visits were up 16.2% over 2020 but 7.6% off the pace set in the pre-pandemic year of 2019.

“We had a much more typical year stating in April-May and finished the year similarly,” said Ressler, noting the beginning of 2021 was impacted by public health orders resulting in fewer tourist visits. July was the busiest month of the year for the emergency department, which recorded nearly 975 admissions.

— Surgeries showed a big spike in 2021, up 38.4% over 2020 and 25.6% over 2019. March tallied approximately 200 surgeries, the highest of the year. December was the second busiest for surgeries, with more than 180 performed. Ressler attributed the increase to AVH’s partnership with the Steadman Clinic, which took effect Dec. 1, 2020.

“It’s important to point out that we’ve seen growth, although not as much, across all of our surgical specialties here at AVH, not just orthopedics,” Ressler told the board.

— AVH’s outpatient volume held steady in 2021, showing an 11.5% bump over 2020 and 13.6% improvement over 2019.

“A lot of that is being driven by imaging studies by our orthopedic group, but again all of our specialties across the board have really seen a growth in the outpatient services,” said Ressler, noting elective procedures were shelved for about two months in 2020 due to the pandemic.

— AVH’s clinic registrations also increased in 2021, up 17.5% over 2020 and topping 2019 by 5.6%. Those figures did not factor in AVH’s primary care facility or its former OrthoAspen clinic that closed 11 months into 2020 due to the Steadman partnership, but considered the hospital’s other specialty clinics as well as its services in Snowmass Village and Basalt.

— The hospital’s primary care service, which opened in July 2019, saw a 34.9% increase in patient registrations last year over 2020. October was the busiest month, recording nearly 1,000 visits.

“It has really been seeing strong growth … just constant, continued growth,” Ressler, noting the figures reflect the local demand for primary care.

The hospital also finished 2021 with $166.5 million in total patient revenue, exceeding budget projections by 8.2%, according to AVH CFO Ginette Sebenaler.

AVH’s total operating revenue last year was $111 million, with total expenses coming in at $108.2 million. Among those expenses were $7.6 million in physicians’ compensation, $43.8 million in salaries, $8.5 million in employee benefits, and $13.8 million in patient supplies, Sebenaler told the board. Employees were given a 5% across-the-board raise last year.